GIREC research initiatives will address some of the most pressing environmental issues affecting northern Gulf of Mexico marine and coastal ecosystems.
The GIREC research program is being designed to support a flexible response to evolving issues including developing integrated research and education programs to address (1) declining water quality, (2) fisheries and wildlife restoration, and (3) sand resource management. These efforts will provide the basic science needed to support effective and sustainable management of the region's private, state, and federal coastal lands, with an emphasis on the management needs of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
To strengthen existing water quality monitoring in the Pensacola Bay watershed GIREC will work with partners to track water quality conditions in Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay. Following National Water Quality Council recommendations water quality measures including chlorophyll, turbidity, and total nitrogen will be monitored. To improve public awareness of water quality issues, funding will be sought to support live streaming of water quality data online and in the GUIS Visitor Center.
Fisheries and Wildlife Restoration
GIREC will promote critical research needed to assess and manage threatened Gulf of Mexico coastal and estuarine populations. Priority issues include identification of essential habitat, accurate assessment of stock boundaries and stock abundance, and expected recovery time of impacted populations. Partners currently include NOAA National Marine Fisheries (“Characterization of shark pupping and nursery habitat in Northwest Florida”), and NPS Inventory and Monitoring Gulf Coast Network (“Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring at Gulf Islands National Seashore”).
To help overcome the historic challenges of protecting vulnerable barrier islands, coastal dunes, beaches, and wetlands from frequent high-intensity storms, GIREC will prioritize the development of partnerships and funding to support research into sediment transport dynamics and coastal flood hazard mitigation. GIREC supported research will build off the technical framework presented in the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Gulf Regional Sediment Management Master Plan to establish guidelines for the effective management of sediment resources within the Seashore and across the region, including the successful integration of dredging and beach renourishment projects into the natural geomorphological processes.